Print on Demand (POD) has become a very affordable solution for people willing to publish their own books. Previously, you had to convince a publisher to invest in printing hundreds if not thousands of copies of your book; then, you hoped for success and -usually- failed.
With Print of Demand, the cost becomes so low that you can actually print one copy for you and one for your mother. Then, you print whenever you find a customer. This is still affordable and it works.
In this context, I wanted to help a friend interested in this and I started looking for a good solution. So, here are my rants and raves about publishing solutions I could find.
Best Print-on-Demand solutions
The first solution I found seemed obvious because they have been present on this market for quite long (and they have a name easy to remember): Lulu.com. They specialized in Print on Demand and do it well. It seems that they have a very large number of customers.
The second solution I found is not promoting this POD more actively than the rest of their activities: CafePress.com prints anything on nearly anything. They are more famous for printing T-shirts, posters or making caps and mugs, but they also have a pretty nifty Print-your-own-book service, too.
What is impressive is that both companies have been doing this for quite some time, they do it well and they keep a list of very faithful customers. Even better, they support quite well the creation of your own online store to help you sell your items from your own web site. Nobody says that this replaces good marketing, but it gives you very good tools to start a nice little business. And if your customers come rushing in, you still can escalate from one-by-one printing to order quantities and possibly going to a large scale operation later.
This is so nice and simple that you can easily make one additional source of revenue to monetize your successful blog or web site. So, they address simultaneously yet-to-be-discovered authors, would-be artists and inventive-online-marketers.
Even better, CafePress.com will help you create all sorts of products. I particularly love the photo calendars, the posters, the T-shirts and the mugs.
I also found a list of other print service providers in a post at oprah.com, but I don’t actually know them well, so I’ll give only a short opinion hoping that it will assist you in recognizing the other kind of offers in parallel to Print-on-Demand:
- xlibris.com tends to be a traditional printer accepting small jobs, but not fully Print-on-Demand
- iuniverse.com is a more traditional publisher, and they work from manuscripts. They do most of the usual selection and preparation work from Word or WordPerfect files. They fully integrated the Internet in their processes, but the POD capacity is not their strong point (they use it more at their advantage than yours). They also include an option for Google Print (to have your book included in the Google digital library of the future).
- booklocker.com starts from eBooks (low cost electronic books) and includes a full-service Print-on-Demand solution (10-day delivery time in the US). Clean and neat. Apparently, what we need.
- ebookstand.com offers true Print-on-Demand, shares revenues with you, but offers an online shop solution. This is all very well targetted to small quantity book publishing.
One company, SpreadShirt should be mentionned because they have a very well localized web site (German, French, etc.) Of course, this is because it’s a German company well targetting the European continent market. But, currently, they do not support book-pinting and specialize in T-shirts.
In France, some time ago, the FNAC department store offered a print-on-demand solution that was primed with a book to guide the would-be author, but it seems that this disappeared (probably it was not big enough for a mass market product like FNAC loves them).
Just to be sure, I would like to insist on the fact that this is about printing your book (editing it by yourself). There are also some publishers who accept nearly anything, make the author pay all costs and limit themselves to a very imprecise promotion contract. They tend to be surviving on the will to be published at all costs.
The Print-on-Demand solutions do not extend further than printing (sic), but they limit costs to a very small sum (a few dollars/euros and you have your book; It may be a failure, but it’s yours and it won’t lead you to personal bankruptcy and a divorce).